This blog will be used to share information, tips and tricks for you to use in your courses to better assist your students and/or to help you with the design and maintenance of your course.

If you have any suggestions for what you would like for me to share on this blog, please contact me: Dr. Joy Pine-Thomas by email @

Information sign

Let’s start with sharing information that developed from issues some of you have experienced when using Canvas:

Making comments in SpeedGrader

Instructions for Making Comments in Speedgrader. Go into speedgrader and type comment, click enter after each comment.


Using Arc in Canvas

Below please view the slide deck that was sent to the SON Faculty by email about using Arc in Canvas. If you have questions about using Arc, feel free to contact me. Thanks


Image saying Hot Tip

15 Habits to build Intelligence and Brain Power

I sent this out at the beginning of this semester. I thought it would be a good reminder for us all.
Here’s how:

1). Read More (duh!): Reading is the fastest way to learn new information. It builds focus and helps you link concepts together. It’s critical to constantly read if you want to become smarter.

2). Make More Mistakes (yes, you read that right): I know this is counter-intuitive, but if you want to become smarter, how have to make more mistakes. Mistakes are the FASTESTway the brain learns. In fact, your brain hones in on the mistake and issues an “alert” to cause you to be more focused and deliberate so that you don’t make it again.

Here’s a perfect example; if you’ve ever accidentally walked into a pile of dog crap on the ground, your brain makes SURE that you never do that again.

3). Learn From OTHER People’s Mistakes (this is smarter than making your own mistakes): This is an even BETTER way to get smarter. Don’t make mistakes… learn from others. That’s why reading is so important (history, biographies, etc.)

4). Learn to Control Your Breathing (POWERFUL ancient technique): Your breath delivers oxygen to your blood, which in turn nourishes your brain. If you want a healthy, nourished, relaxed brain, then learn to breathe deeply, calmly, and purposefully. It will make you smarter.

5). Lift Weights and Sprint (sharpens your body AND brain): Exercise, even walking, delivers more oxygen to your brain. It also produces a flood of hormones in your body that lower stress, burn fat, and increase muscle growth. Bottom line, exercise boosts memory, learning ability, focus, concentration, and comprehension.

6). Visualize Your Ideal Outcome (imagine being smarter): The smartest people in the world visualize what they want before it comes into existence. They visualize what they need to do to make it happen. They visualize the steps they took. They visualize the obstacles they faced. So you need to learn to visualize your ideal outcome.

7). Pay Attention (focus on the little things): Intelligence is the ability to link information quickly. The easiest way to do that is to pay attention to your surroundings. Learn how to listen to what is actually being said. Learn to see the reality in front of you. Learn to be objective so that you can make quick decisions.

8). Learn How to Sell (selling makes you smarter… FAST): Some of the smartest, quick-witted people in the world are salespeople. If you’ve ever encountered a street salesperson, you see how intelligent they are. They can read your body language, assess your intent to buy, counter objections, and deliver your product so fast you won’t know what happened. You need to learn how to do that.

9). Learn How to Program (this is an AWESOME way to challenge your brain):Computer programming is phenomenal because it forces you to think logically and methodically. You learn how to deconstruct a problem and devise a solution. It’s great that kids are learning how to program in school now.

10). Write Books, Articles, and Quora Answers (writing makes you a LOT smarter): It’s one thing to have knowledge in your head, but the ability to clearly and concisely write it requires a strong understanding of concepts and an ability to tailor it to your audience.

11). Learn a New Language (double your brain’s capacity) : I learned Arabic in Cairo when I was 18 and it was one of the best experiences in my entire life. Learning a new language opens up an entire world and helps you think quicker. The more mistakes you make when speaking, the faster you learn (see #2 above)

12). Take More Naps (this is another ancient secret): Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein were artistic and mathematical geniuses. They both took micro naps and credited their achievements to taking naps. Need I say more? Take more naps.

13). Eat Less (being too full makes you stupid): Eating too much has been scientifically proven to lead to mild cognitive impairment. In general, the human body is resilient and adaptive, that means it does better with less. If you want to get smarter, you DON’T want to inundate your body with unnecessary calories that it has to figure out what to do with.

14). Positive Self-Talk (talk to yourself like you’re smart): Telling yourself “I’m smart. I’ve got this. I’ve got this under control. I love challenges. I love solving problems” is what high-achievers and world-class performers do. They don’t allow stress and worry to paralyze them. Rather, they have an extreme sense of self-reliance and inner calm that allows them to make quick, accurate decisions. That’s why I referenced the story of Jeffrey Immelt above.

15). Take Aggressive, Persistent Action (action is the KEY): Nothing makes you smarter than actually using the knowledge you have and taking ACTION. Action is what separates the dreamers from the doers. Action is what makes knowledge and intelligence worthwhile.

This is a bit of information that you may want to consider when designing your class for Spring 2018 semester.

Tips for designing a collaborative learning environment

We know some students may have difficulty participating in class and in group assignments. There are two critical elements that will determine successful collaborative learning environment for your students. First, define the appropriate task for the content you are teaching. This is important, because students don’t want to do what feels like busywork to get a grade. The second element is to determine the appropriate procedures that will engage the students in performing the task efficiently. Provide specific instructions and examples that will show the students what it is you want them to do. The following suggestions were developed by Wicks, Lumpe, & Denton, 2012; Roby, 2007 (as cited by Barkley, Major, and Cross, 2014).

1, Audit your class characteristics – Determine class size, experience of the students, learning goals, available technology tools when designing your course. For larger courses with short semesters (e.g. summer), you may want to create effective discussion-based collaborative exercises. For longer semesters, you may want to create a major group or individual project (adding reflections and assessments) after each milestone of the project. The reflection exercises could be added value for you to modify the project moving forward or modify it for the next class.

2. For large group or individual projects – make sure the students will be developing essential knowledge and understanding or a necessary skill. Don’t create busywork that doesn’t generate crucial knowledge or skill. Also, allow groups to choose how they will collaborate (just make sure they use tools that will identify what each participant does – e.g. Google docs)

3, Provide class specific guidelines on how students can collaborate effectively (include  a completed example, descriptions, training for any technology tools they will be required to use). You may consider doing an orientation during the first week of class. Also, make sure you know how to use the technology you are expecting the students to use. If you need assistance, please contact me at or by phone 336-334-5072 I will be glad to assist you.

4. Create a collaboration document. Provide detailed instructions on the project (goals, phases, technology tools). This will reduce any anxiety and frustration for you and the students. This will also help you to solve any problems or make necessary adjustments to the project. Please review the following url for an example of a collaboration script – Collaboration Script Example

Note: This may seem like a lot of up front work, but it will save you a lot of time during the semester and prevent you from doing  so much work at the back end of your course when you have to enter final grades.

5. Make collaboration a stated course outcome in your syllabus.

6. If the course is online – try to minimize synchronous activity due to students time constraints (e.g. work etc.).